This is, as the title makes clear, a book about fast food, but it is a book about fast food for those who love eating. Perhaps that’s self-evident: How could I write any other sort? But I start with this premise because so much is written about the need to reduce the time we must spend cooking, it’s as if the kitchen were a hateful place, almost an unsafe place, and that it must be only reasonable for us to avoid it. I love food, I adore being in the kitchen and I am happy to cook. But here’s the problem: The day doesn’t have enough gaps in it for me to do much shopping and the evening—what with the battles over homework, the still unchecked-off list of things I was meant to do, the calls I was supposed to return—doesn’t yield much time to cook. But I must eat, and I must eat well—or else what is the point of it all? And then there are the people who need to be fed. I don’t mention them grudgingly, either. I love to feed people, and rare is the person who comes into my home and leaves without a foil parcel of something from the kitchen.
I have had to adapt. I manage to have a fridge full of food and a life rich in the expectation of dinner, but within the confines of a timetable that is disorganized, busy, full of things I want to do as well as things I don’t want to do—though sometimes I’m so tired I can’t tell the difference. In short, I have a normal life, the sort we all share. To be sure, I can occasionally find the odd weekend or rainy afternoon when I am able to lose myself in an afternoon’s stirring, chopping, kneading, or general pursuit of unhurried cooking, but for the most part, I am either in a hurry or in some state of psycho-fizz or obligation-overload, and food has to be fitted in.
Even if I might never have thought that a book of fast food recipes would be the natural one for me to write, it has been both pleasurable and easy. After all, the recipes are already there. For this is the food I do eat, day in day out. I don’t know if I have quite spelled out my food obsessiveness before, but it’s the case that I take notes of everything I cook (even if the notes are sometimes hard to read later), and I keep a digital camera in the kitchen to record each finished dish, if not for posterity, for my own greedy archives. In a way, then, this book has written itself. This is just as well, since I left myself barely enough time to write it. My sister, Horatia, said I was like Wallace and Gromit, laying down the tracks just in time for the train to ride over them; and although it’s been a bit hairy at times, it does, however, seem entirely fitting for a book called Nigella Express.